THE CENTRAL PARK FIVE, which first aired on PBS on April 16, 2013, following a 2012 theatrical release, tells the story of the five Black and Latino teenagers from Harlem who were wrongly convicted of raping a white woman in New York City’s Central Park in 1989. Ken Burns directed and produced the 2012 PBS documentary THE CENTRAL PARK FIVE with Sarah Burns and Dave McMahon. Sarah Burns is also the author of the book of the same title, which was the first in-depth account of the case from the perspective of the five wrongfully convicted young men.
Sarah and Dave have a new, taped conversation with Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana, Korey Wise, Antron McCray and Kevin Richardson, the five young men who became known as the Central Park Five. The conversation was just launched on a Central Park Five page on UNUM, Ken Burns’s digital platform that connects our country’s past to its present utilizing clips from his films.
The conversation, which took place on May 8, 2019, was the first time all five subjects of the film had reunited with filmmakers Sarah and Dave in seven years. It includes a discussion about the impact the documentary had on their lives, reflections on the period, and how they were perceived by the media, including Donald Trump’s full-page ad calling for their execution. They also share their thoughts on what is happening in the country today.
Kevin Richardson recalls, “I used to have a vision of the sixties or when the KKK used to come to people’s houses and pull them out. That’s how I felt when we used to get our families, used to get threatened…. To survive that, it is a blessing, you know? And it’s still…. But all we know is the fight still, so that’s why we still have that defense up. Because we never just fight for us. We are fighting for a whole generation.”
The clips are interspersed with scenes from the actual film.
Here is a little more about THE CENTRAL PARK FIVE, including a new quote from Ken about its continued relevance today.
Set against the backdrop of a city beset by violence and facing deepening rifts between races and classes, THE CENTRAL PARK FIVE intertwines the stories of these five young men, the victim, police officers and prosecutors, and the actual perpetrator, Matias Reyes, unraveling the forces behind the wrongful convictions. The film illuminates how law enforcement, social institutions, and the media undermined the very rights of the individuals they were designed to safeguard and protect.
In the fall of 2012, prior to the release of the film, the filmmakers successfully fought a subpoena from lawyers for the City of New York, who were seeking interviews and outtakes from the film as part of their effort to contest a civil suit brought by the five men in 2003. In 2012, the film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and was released theatrically to critical acclaim that fall, and received, among other awards, the New York Film Critic’s Circle award for Best Non-Fiction Film of the year. In April 2013, the film aired nationally on PBS. The following year, New York City settled the lawsuit for $41 million.
“It has been 30 years since five young Black and Latino teenagers were wrongfully convicted in the 1989 Central Park jogger assault and rape,” said Ken Burns. “Their story remains all the more relevant today as we continue to battle systemic racism and work to reform our criminal justice system. Their stories also remind us of the power of love, hope and faith, and how their loved ones and other supporters continued to rally around them as they became a symbol not of a horrific crime bur rather of exoneration and justice.”
View the clips and more here -> https://www.pbs.org/kenburns/unum/theme/central-park-five/chapter/scenes?clip=looking-back-central-park-five
The documentary The Central Park Five which tells the story in the voices of the five, is now streaming on Amazon Prime. The Ava DuVernay scripted miniseries is premiering on Netflix on 5/31.